Aug 252010
 

The upscale eatery that invited the blogger to a meal.

Here’s a story that could have happened to any food blogger or restaurant reviewer who receives email invitations to restaurants.

A restaurant p.r. person invited a food blogger to a “food tasting session,”  where she said the restaurant would host him for lunch.

The food blogger couldn’t make it at the suggested time, and later sent an email saying he’d be in the following Sunday for brunch, not lunch. He did not confirm that he expected it would still be a “food tasting session” where he would be hosted.

Lesson #1: If you’re changing the game plan, seek confirmation that you can still be hosted. Just because a restaurant invited you to a specific event doesn’t mean Continue reading »

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Jul 012010
 

Befriending chefs and purveyors when you’re a food writer can be perilous. Worse yet, the practice can come back to bite you in the butt.

And that’s exactly what happened to Josh Ozersky, a food writer who got married recently in New York and showed poor judgement when planning for his wedding.

The trouble started when he accepted food from his buddies in the business as  presents: free bread, dips, seafood, lasagna, strip loins, and a free place to hold the event.

Then he devoted his column on Time magazine’s website to promoting the food and purveyors, never mentioning that his buddies supplied the goods for free, and saying most caterers “aren’t really good cooks” anyway.

Another food writer, Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice, busted him in an open letter, suggesting the food and venue could have cost $24,000 and asking whether he paid. And then the New York Times did a fascinating story about not only Ozersky but the whole issue of restaurants getting an increasing number of requests for free meals.

Time got so many comments on Ozersky’s column that they Continue reading »

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Jun 172010
 

It’s been a while since I’ve held a food writing contest on this blog, so I thought I’d blast out another one, just for fun. This time, let’s have a simile writing contest.

Similes are comparisons that starts with “like” or “as,” for comparing two unlike things. Why would you want to use them? You need as many tools as possible in your writing toolbox. Similes are a welcome alternative to adjectives. They’re playful, making your writing fun to read. Restaurant reviewers are particularly good employers of similes because Continue reading »

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Mar 252010
 

richman_240You might have read in my last post on James Beard nominees that Alan Richman, a contributing writer for GQ magazine since 1986, received three nomations.

That’s nothing. His bio on GQ calls him “the most decorated food writer in America.” He has already won 14 James Beard awards, with 29 nominations overall. A congratulatory post from the GQ editors compared him to Meryl Streep, who has won twice, with  16 nominations.

Richman, who started his writing career as a sports reporter in Philadelphia, eats in restaurants as his main job. In one year he might dine in Bangkok; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Paris; Beijing; Los Angeles; and New Haven, Connecticut.

He’s a master of the long form, but it must be relative. In an interview with Chow, Richman bemoans its demise.”We’re starting to lose something by stories Continue reading »

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Feb 242010
 

holdup12

Despite hand-wringing about the decline of print restaurant reviewing, few people seem to care. When I teach food writing, hardly anyone asks about becoming a critic now, and a post I wrote on how the net influences restaurant reviewing elicited no response.

Maybe it’s about the economy. Food bloggers cook, perhaps because it’s less expensive and more hands-on than eating out. Due to lack of funds, restaurant reviewers now fall into two camps:  the few remaining newspaper employees and freelancers reimbursed for meals; and hobbyists, who write on websites like Yelp.

So please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems no one wants to be a restaurant reviewer anymore. And certainly this news about Yelp doesn’t elevate the profession.

What news, you ask? It’s called Yelpmail. On this post from Chez Geek, a Continue reading »

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Sep 142009
 

It’s the last night of my husband Owen’s and my vacation in New York, and despite 10 days of eating meals at restaurants, he took shots of our food only once. I asked him to do so when I didn’t think anyone would notice, sitting at an outdoor table at  Xie Xie (pronounced shay shay, Mandarin for thank you), a casual pan-Asian sandwich shop. I wanted to experience what food bloggers go through when they’re going to blog about a dish. When we were done, however, Chef Angelo Sosa came over to say good-bye and thanks. Later Owen said the chef had been watching us. Would he have done so if we did not take the photos? I guess I’ll never know.

Let me interrupt for a moment to tell you about his sandwiches. Sosa has worked a the restaurants of Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and I couldn’t wait to taste his cooking at a fraction of the price. The two pan-Asian sandwiches I sampled were loaded with layers of flavor and texture, and to top it off, cost under $9 each.

fishThe Hanoi-inspired Cha Ca La Vong, a tumeric-laced seared fish sandwich loaded with sweet juicy onions, a layer of fresh dill, had a sriracha mayonnaise that kept the sandwich moist.

porkThe caramelized Sweet Glazed Pork in Chinese buns, so tender it hardly required chewing, was laced with a sweet and sour sauce, onion and sprigs of cilantro.

We ate well and inexpensively in New York, including dinner with David Leite and his partner at La Caridad 78, a Latin American/Chinese restaurant frequented by cops Continue reading »

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Aug 162009
 

Two leaders in print food writing have acknowledged the power of online restaurant reviews. They’re not about to say they value the opinions, but it’s a start.

imagesSam Sifton, the new restaurant critic for the New York Times, says the net can add value where newspapers cannot. Answering questions about his new post on Diner’s Journal, he said,  “The biggest change in restaurant criticism since my days at NYPress is — hands down — the Internet. I don’t know that I trust the opinion of that guy who loved the sandwiches at Xie Xie and wrote about it on his blog, or Yelp, or Eater, or Midtown Lunch. (Why prevaricate? I don’t trust his opinion.) But boy oh boy do I like the photographs he’s posted, the menu he’s scanned, the information he’s provided for all to share. For myself, I look forward to joining that discussion.”

(By the way, he failed to provide links to Yelp, Eater or Midtown Lunch.)

The announcement about the nation’s most powerful restaurant reviewer prompted some to ask if that title is still relevant, now that anyone can write a restaurant review online, whether a rabid  citizen reviewer or a well-known blogger.

I’m biased enough to think the answer is yes, with a background as a print journalist. I can’t think of a single online reviewer with his influence, when it comes to the fancy restaurants. Can you?

images-1Back in 2006, Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl said that restaurant reviews in her magazine no longer make sense, because online reviews appear immediately. National magazines often work six months in advance, so scooping the net would be a “ridiculous” proposition. Now the magazine focuses on trend stories, adding depth and insights that online posts do not, and posts reviews only on its website.

She made these comments about print versus online food writing during a New York radio show about “Amateur Gastronomes,” otherwise known as food bloggers. Bloggers Josh Friedland of TheFoodSection.com (who just did what used to be unforgivable: posted a mugshot of Sifton August 10), Jennifer Leuzzi of snack.blogs.com, and Regina Schrambling of gastropoda.com were also on the show. It’s worth a listen.

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